You have broken up, separated. You may be devastated. Crushed. Feel empty inside and like you are just going through the motions. Family and friends try to be helpful and yet they wind up somehow bringing it all down a notch, "making" you feel much worse. Silver lining talk, reassurances about how things will get better, how it's really for the best, and other such bromides that seem like utter horsesh*t. Then there are those people who can't possibly understand what you are going through; yet, who have the audacity to make suggestions about how you should cope. And finally there are some, and this might include your own kids, who distance themselves out of divided loyalties or because they simply do not know how to deal with your situation.
I call these family members and friends who have disappointed you your Frenemies.
Well, perhaps it's time to begin shaping these Frenemies to come through for you. To lovingly take a stand and take care of yourself and your own emotional needs. So that you can have true support that is health-giving and emotionally nourishing to you at this critical time. Here are six relationship tips to help you create a strong social network that will help you through this difficult life passage:
1. Understand that no one is a mind-reader. Not even your kids. No one knows what acts have hurtful or loving symbolic significance to you. Only you do.
2. Teach those around you how to make you happy. This means that you have to communicate your needs specifically in a loving way.
3. Practice Positive Paranoia. Here's what I mean: You know that the people in your posse, especially your kids, love you and mean well but don't always know how to show it. Focus on how much the person at their core really does love you, and you will get more of their caring. Refocusing on the love that might not be evident in the moment is Positive Paranoia.
4. Share your real pain and sadness (not blame!!) with trusted friends and family members. Don't just try to hide it all with stoic resolve. And this extends to late teen or adult children. Share with older kids--but not to the point of becoming an emotional burden. Many of us keep ALL the upset buttoned up inside and this is not a good thing.
5. Communicate your pain by making statements like, "I would like to share my sadness right now. It is OK to feel this way. You don't have to fix it. I am just feeling the mourning, the loss because it's our first holiday since the divorce." Remind yourself and those around you that feelings are just feelings. They simply need to be felt in order to pass through your system.
6. Use what I call Positive Shaping Talk: Clearly and lovingly ask for exactly what you want and need. Like "Sweetheart, you are such a light in my life! It would make me so happy if you gave me a quick check-in call each day." Use statements that start with "I would really love it if...." Be specific in what you are asking for. Some examples:
- "I would really love it if you told me what you appreciate about having me as your mother."
- "I would really love it if you gave me a long hug."
- To son/daughter: "I would really love it if you shared your thoughts and feelings with me."
- "I would really love it if you spent an hour alone with me, a special time just for us."
- "I would really love it if instead of giving me advice, you just told me all about the things I have done right."
Look on your Frenemies from a place of Positive Paranoia and practice Positive Shaping Talk with them. Come right out and ask for attention, validation, nurturance or whatever it is that you really need and want. While you are practicing these skills, this is a good time to try building a bridge to or reconnecting with family members or caring friends who have been distant. You will be pleasantly surprised. Using this kind of straight talk can work miracles in building a circle of love around you.
Help those around you come through for you! You will feel better--and, after they get the hang of it, they will too! For other ways of shaping those around you so that they become more validating check out my new book, Sealing the Deal: The Love Mentor's Guide to Lasting Love
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